To My Fellow 'People-Pleasers,' Consider This My Two Weeks Notice


I’m reaching out to let you know in advance, as I won’t be explaining myself once quitting time is here. I know what you’re probably thinking, and just so you know, it’s not you. It is definitely me! I plan on spending my retirement from “people-pleasing” by revisiting an old hobby I consider self-pleasing. Or self-care, which sounds a little nicer. A little less self-indulgent, maybe.

While the task at hand sounds daunting, I know I can, because I’ve been forced to live with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). Living with an invisible illness has been a game changer, I feel like I can do anything. And being well-liked, not letting people down – it’s just not possible when you’ve got POTS. So I’m tougher, I say, and I know I can undo people-pleasing, too. Out with the old, “If my people are pleased, then I can kick back and relax!”

When you have to cancel plans at the last minute because your blood pressure is sky-high, or gravity is having its way with you for the day, you’re letting people down – but you’re giving your body a break. People-pleasing comes second to my body’s health out of necessity. This isn’t by choice. When friends are laughing and conversing at dinner, but all you can think on is the decibel of music in the background, wondering if your brain is getting enough oxygen because you suddenly got sleepy, it makes you seem like a bore. In reality, you’re just trying to hang in there and maintain some sort of normalcy by getting out of the house. But you’re just not people-pleasing like you used to.

The uphill battle we (and soon, just you) fight, is noble for sure, but is it really about the people, or is it about us? In people-pleasing, who are we actually trying to please? For me, at least, the “why” often boils down to making myself feel “OK,” “settled,” “validated.” It’s much easier to pour my energy into ensuring that someone I perceive as an “outsider” feels a sense of belonging, or that I’ve got all of my house guest’s favorite snacks and fresh bed linens ready, than it is for me to take care of myself first – then awkwardly wallow in a bit of discomfort knowing that they, and in turn I, are now both off-put.

Also, I’m sending you a little heads up because you’re going to want to people-please me, but you’re better off not trying to do so. If I’m having a bad day, I’ll come around, I promise. But save your energy, alright? Have you ever thought that people-pleasing is a tireless, losing battle? At best, you’re actually, clearly, truly helping someone when they need it! But at worst, your motivations can err on the side of self-seeking, by attempting to make right what puts us at dis-ease. Disease. Don’t misread – I’m by no means self-dependent. I still need my people. However, I need my people to know I won’t always be pleased, and that is OK. It’s not on you to fix it.

And if you want in on a little secret about how you could best people-please me – try and people-please less. I consider this people-helping. It is one of your main goals, after all. Just misguided. Misguided enabling can lead to accidental disabling, and man, we do not want that for our people. Let’s keep the see-saw of abling at a perfect balance, one in which everyone’s able. No more bending over backwards, holding your breath, or donning a certain, expected persona. There’s no telling if and when the receiving end might hop off the seesaw completely – and, well, there goes your side, too.

I’m basically about energy conservation these days – and that includes the energy it takes to people-please your heart out. Got to keep some of that energy in for numero uno over here, which means saying “no” more often than not these days. I’m currently paying for all the years I overdid it, people-pleasing and all. I’m hoping there will be a snowball effect when it comes to saying no. Like, you say it once, then next time it’s easier, and so on and so forth. We’ll see. If I get carried away with saying no, though, just let me be. You do you.

Hear you me: I still love you lots! If I could, I would make this all up to you, somehow. But that would be people-pleasing, and well, that’s ending soon. But if you just hold tight, you’ll see that this is actually right and good. This is people-helping. This is self-helping. Don’t get me wrong, people still need help and pleasing, but this often looks much different than we now perceive. It’s been a fun ride, though, we’ve gotten to fix – I mean please – numerous folks together, and I think maybe they’re better off for it. But, who really knows?

I suppose this letter, one that seems like an impossible task, advising people-pleasers to go against their nature and stop people-pleasing, is an ironic one, huh? You’re feeling uncomfortable on the other end, I bet, seeing me go, and also wondering why you don’t get all the warm and fuzzies from me, here.

I could apologize, but, for what? This is for your good, too. No more saying sorry just to fill an awkward void in the room. Or to make myself feel better. To try and alleviate any harsh feelings in the room.

In some ways, you could try to see my quitting as a way of people-pleasing (or in hindsight, at least, you might). By that I mean, what I’m doing is actually for my own good, but also for yours. The world won’t need to replace me with a new people-pleaser, either. It needs less. It needs more people-lovers. The kind who hold you accountable, tell you to act your age, tell you to take a walk, cry if that’s what you need, or who just let you sit there looking uncomfortable for the rest of the night.

I suppose, fellow people-pleasers, through this illness, I’ve realized there’s only so much energy to give each day (some like to measure this in spoons). If I spend it attempting to baby you or enable you by going out of my way too much, then I’m missing out on the dozens of other ways I can spend it that are productive, edifying, and satisfying. Like cooking dinner, going for a hike, laughing at a rom-com, organizing my closet…I could go on. I’ve got to work a bit on self-pleasing because my seesaw is off over here. And I’m not saying any names, but I think yours may be too.

Oh dear, I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable now. But, no turning back here. It’s going to be great, I promise!

Oh and, never mind what I said before. My two weeks notice is actually a two minutes notice, and the time is up!

Getty Image by optop


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome

A black and white image of a woman with a soft smile.

When Your Health Prevents You From Doing the Things That Bring You Joy

Two years ago, a friend and I sat and talked about how we wanted to spend our time and how we make our money. I wanted to spend as much time as possible writing and performing music, and I also wanted things like health insurance and a roof over my head. After several hours of [...]
mother carrying son and daughter in the park

Why I Choose to Love Mother's Day as a Chronically Ill Mom

Mother’s Day evokes a lot of mixed emotions for me, as I know it does for many others. As a child, I loved Mother’s Day. I loved the opportunity to show my mom how much I adored her. This was usually accomplished with a rudimentary card plastered with hearts, homemade coupons for hugs, kisses and [...]
A picture of the writer, mountains standing tall behind her, somewhere in India.

When Anxiety Took Over After My POTS Diagnosis

At 18, I backpacked through the Alaskan tundra with five other teenagers alone, got lost in mountain fog, sprained a ligament in my knee, and climbed wet, slippery rock faces with a 50 pound backpack for 23 days. At 19, I navigated my way through the Czech Republic with only my broken German to help [...]

I'm a Chronically Ill Nurse. Here's What I Want Others to Remember During Nurses Week.

Nurses Week is May 6th through May 12th this year. It’s a time when nurses are often praised for their work and shown appreciation and gratitude. Nurses are an amazing classification of humans. We are our own species! From the time I was young, I can remember wanting so badly to become a nurse to [...]